Finding the Best Breast Cancer Surgeon
Research -- Not Doctor Referral -- Gets Women the Most Experienced Surgeons, Hospitals
WebMD News Archive
Jan. 16, 2007 -- Women who choose their own surgeon and hospital get better
breast cancer care than those who rely on doctor
or health plan referrals, a new survey suggests.
Most doctors who perform breast cancer operations are general surgeons who see
many kinds of patients.
But studies suggest women who need breast cancer surgery have better
outcomes if they see surgeons highly experienced in the kind of surgery they
In their study, Steven Katz, MD, MPH, and colleagues surveyed 1,844 women
diagnosed with breast cancer. Katz is director of health services research at
the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The researchers found that only a third of the women were treated by a
high-volume surgeon -- one with more than 50% of his practice devoted to breast
Two-thirds of the women were treated in hospitals designated as cancer
centers by the National Cancer Institute or the American College of
Women who said they chose their own surgeon were twice as likely to see a
highly experienced surgeon as were those referred by another doctor or by their
"Women who were more actively involved in selecting their surgeon were
more likely to be treated by surgeons more experienced in breast surgery and in
more comprehensive treatment settings," Katz and colleagues report.
"By contrast, the provider-based referral pathway was not associated
with surgeon volume [in breast cancer surgeries]," the researchers say.
They advise women to get a second opinion -- especially if their doctor
recommends a specific procedure without a full discussion of the options.
Katz and colleagues report their findings in the Jan. 20 issue of the
Journal of Clinical Oncology.